Due to the wonder of life that is final year Law exams I’ve had to hold off on writing for a while so I can concentrate on not completely fucking my life up, but now that that’s all out of the way it’s time to get back to some good old rambling, and what more pertinent and inflammatory topic is there at the moment than the EU.
Yes the EU, the European Union, not to be confused with the Council of Europe, or the Eurozone, or the European Council, or the Council of the European Union, or the Kafka Society of Bureaucratic Nightmares.
It is a body that is loved and loathed in almost equal measure, but mostly it’s just been tolerated and made it easier to exchange your dosh when you’re off on your hols instead of having to deal with Francs and Lira and whatever they used in Finland, some form of berry I imagine. The EU emerged from the ashes of WWII, a bold move to bring the continent of Europe closer together and end the centuries of war that plagued the continent. Kicking off in earnest with the Treaty of Rome in 1957, with the core group of France, West Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg (a veritable who’s who of cheesemakers), and going on to include the United Kingdom (1973), getting rejected by Norway, and then encompassing Greece and Portugal and Spain and all those countries that do things with olives.
After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, a whole bunch of other countries became free to join the EU, and many did, and so it continued until we wound up with the 28 member states we have today.
That number could soon become 27.
Yes it’s the EU referendum, also referred to as Brexit, Bremain, Vote In, Vote Leave, Vote in out in out shake it all about, EU’ve Got To Be Joking, EUse Sovereignty Is It Anyway, “They make all are laws,” etcetera etcetera ad infinitum ubi est mea anaticula cumminosa.
No matter what you want to call it, there’s no escaping the fact that this is one of the most important public votes that the populace of the United Kingdom have ever been offered, (coming a close second behind the X Factor final of 2007 and the titanic battle between Same Difference and Leon Jackson), and as such deserves to be treated with a little more importance than the usual scorn and detached cynicism offered by the Angry Indian.
However this post isn’t here to tell you what to vote for, even though I am staunchly backing remain (first step to Starfleet guys), it’s here to examine how the choice has divided people along lines of class, race, region, and also to make fun of all the people who say “of” instead of “have.”
What I’ve found to be the most fascinating aspect of the referendum is how it has revealed the deep differences in opinion we hold, even in comparison to those we would consider to be from the same background or hold the same interests. I’ve seen school friends on opposite sides of the debate, shout out to Ted and Matt, uni friends on Facebook either sharing articles on how we’ll be stronger in or liking posts supporting leave, and ordinary people on newspaper comment threads writing mini-essays or inexplicably typing “YOU CAN’T BARRAGE THE FARAGE” followed by a calm “Vote leave.”
Speaking of Farage, it would be a pretty lame discussion if I were to ignore the leaders on both sides of this. In the Leave corner we have Farage and Boris, two bumbling politicians who have made it to their office seemingly via an 80s sitcom and the local boozer despite actually being from hugely privileged backgrounds, yet have a baffling around of public support and sway. Though you do have to question how much of it is actual support and how much of it is just people who find them amusing distractions, I’m not a fan of either but I do have to admit that they both have a likability that a lot of other politicians lack, yet this has also led to a dangerous assumption by some that they are just “telling it like it is” for the common man. They’re not.
In the remain corner we have David “Fivehead” Cameron, Gideon “What are emotions” Osborne, Jeremy “Viva la revolucion” Corbyn, and a motley crew of politicians from both sides of the Commons, bolstered by a vast number of actors, musicians, historians, economists, business leaders, foreign leaders and an increasingly vocal younger section of the voting public.
Upon first glance to a complete outsider it would seem like the In campaign has an easy win on its hands, yet polling puts the remain vote at only 6% above the leave vote, with almost 20% of voters still undecided and open to sway (BBC Poll). The numbers have been fluctuating a lot, almost with every announcement, highlighting just how divisive this issue is and how seriously people are taking it, and also how important the leaders of both sides are going to be in the final few weeks.
We have the Leave campaign ramping up fears of mass immigration and the overloading of public resources, though there’s not much reason to see why the UK staying a member would encourage more people to migrate here (see this rather on the nose advert for what they’re swinging for: Soz Turkey). On the other hand, and as is par for the course for the Tory higher ups now, they’re going with the negatives instead of the positives. DC is all about the political doomsaying, Osborne is reading the tea leaves and seeing signs of impending economic stagnation and damage to trading links, Corbyn is probably in a field somewhere hitting some Strawberry Kush (I’m kidding, he actually naturally supports the socialist arguments of better workers rights and environmental protection).
One thing of note is how much both sides are relying on fear mongering to entice votes, one side saying there will be an influx of unwanted foreigners, the other side telling you it’ll be more expensive to go on your jollies to Marbella, one side saying it’s bad for the NHS to stay, the other saying it’s bad to leave, it’s a hodge podge of misinformation wrapped up in the political ambitions of the campaign leaders and smothered in a thick layer of the even more divisive debate of immigration.
Yes, and as always, the British public have mostly focused on Johnny Foreigner, and whether he intends to live and work in peace or wants to use his Muslamic ray guns to build mosques and ban happiness and steal Christmas or something. And this isn’t a debate that is irrelevant, on the contrary it is hugely important and asks some pretty deep questions about the balance of sovereignty and national identity with an increasingly globalised world and the benefits and potential drawbacks of multiculturalism and changes in societal structure, but it’s one that must be debated with concrete facts and rational opinions instead of memes and poorly spelled messages written in all caps.
There’s also the question of independence, with many people learning the word “sovereignty” and using it like it’s going out of fashion. There’s arguments for more political independence, and as much as I hate the phrase “they make all our laws” there is something to be said for the precedence that ECJ and ECtHR rulings have, and calls into question the powers of the UK judiciary.
Economic factors must also be taken into account, with some arguing that the UK has more than enough clout to forge on ahead and develop trade links with individual European countries as well as with the USA and Asia, and others claiming that leaving the EU will make multinationals relocate their headquarters, lose us trade benefits, increase customs on goods manufactured here and that it’s unlikely for other nations to negotiate favourable deals with a singular country instead of a union.
One of the lesser cited but more compelling arguments concerns the structure of the EU and its bodies, as though the unelected Commission has a fair amount of sway, they also don’t impose things like many think, that is done by the European Parliament. Yet the Parliament is host to problems akin to the UN, countries grouping by political similarities, proximity to each other, common cultures and linguistic ties, not quite the wholly representative body it should be. However this argument is one that could be levelled at almost any elected body, politicians always have personal and party interests, and nobody at the top is going to come out and argue that we scrap all of the democratic bodies we have and start from the ground up.
Likewise a lot of the laws and rules that have come from the EU have enabled objectively beneficial developments for workers’ rights, health and safety regulation, sustainability and the environment, and on a cultural level for filmmaking and other arts. However some have been perceived as more restrictive, particularly those regarding human rights for a certain sector of the public who tend to want to bring back hanging (not going to happen guys, look up the ICCPR) and want greater powers of deportation in light of recent cases such as that of Abu Qatada.
So what does the Angry Indian have to say about all of this? Same as always really, it all boils down that old chestnut of misinformation. As with pretty much everything else this referendum has reaffirmed the fact that the empty cans do rattle the most, the people who know the least shout loudest, and genuine information and insight gets buried under polemic and hyperbole.
Nobody wants to look at detailed graphs and tables when there’s simplistic headlines to be had, no one has the patience to read in depth reports when there’s a Facebook status to be shared or, and this is real, Brexit: The Movie to watch on youtube. And people say real cinema is dying, pah.
As with just about anything, it’s too many people who don’t know enough with too much to say, and this time more than ever it is crucial that they aren’t heard. What people need is genuine information delivered by trusted sources with real insight, not Jan from Skegness complaining about the Poles. Yet there is a new wrinkle in this plan, something that seems imported from America and the unstumpable Trump, which is a growing strain of anti-intellectualism. People pay more attention to Boris than to academics and economists, people who are experts in their field, because they’re seen as having vested interests or are out of touch with the common man (because the Etonian totally knows what you’re going through guys, suuuuuuure). A distrust of intelligence is worrying, it is by definition a barrier to progress, and it’s one thing that I hope doesn’t survive the coming vote.
So to summarise, let me just say this. I don’t care which way you vote, that’s the point of a democracy, choice. But make sure you know why you want to vote a certain way, make sure you research for yourself, make sure you weigh up all the pros and cons of any argument, don’t take things at face value because they come from Farage or Corbyn or on a leaflet, don’t base your choice on a headline from the Guardian or the Sun, do whatever the hell you want so long as you have a concrete valid reason to do so.
Democracy, as I’ve written before, only works when its participants are properly informed and educated. That isn’t to say that everyone needs to go back to school and learn about the structure and history of the EU or do a module on EU Law (seriously, you don’t want to, it was hell), but they need to be informed at the very least about its basic ideals, achievements and issues. In 2016 there is no excuse for wilful ignorance, so don’t try and invent one to satisfy your own inability to process anything beyond a basic right/wrong binary.
Vote in, vote leave, spoil your vote, do it by post or at your village hall, go for a pint after, or sit in a dark room and play Jerusalem on a loop while crymaxing over a picture of Britannia, just make sure you go out on June 23rd and make your vote count. It’s a right that people have fought and died for, so you’d damn sure better make sure that their sacrifices were worth it, if not for yourself then at least for all the people around the world who don’t live with the luxury of democratic choice. Just vote okay, jeez.
xoxo, The Angry VotingIn-dian.